It is now official. T&T will play no further part in the 2014 World Football Cup. By virtue of a 2–1 victory on November 11, Guyana consigned this country to be mere spectators.
Four months ago, I warned in this very column that unless urgent action was taken to address the state of our football, we would pay a hefty price. Several critics felt I was premature but alas the truth has come home to hurt us.
Ignorance is never a good attribute but it is inexplicable when the future of a country’s football is allowed to dissipate because a few men forgot their purpose, and instead of concentrating on the job on the field, allowed themselves to be embroiled in battles off the field. If we were to list the reasons for our demise, we would be subjected to utter despise and disgust which would hardly benefit anyone. The truth is we need to find a way forward.
There is not much doubt that change is needed. When Oliver Camps finally resigned, many were happy, but unfortunately his apparent replacement, Lennox Watson, has not as yet endeared himself to the people. Watson did himself no favours by being absent from meeting the T&T and Guyana teams in that crucial World Cup match on Friday 11.
By allowing one of the executive, Ewing Davis, to meet the players, suggested that Watson did not appreciate his new role and may have sent a message that he is not the right man for this important job. Due to the Federation’s constitution, he cannot be removed easily but those who desire to repair our football’s image should not lose hope but should become more determined to fight.
Alloy Lequay was in charge of our cricket for many years and was never defeated in any elections, but when he was seriously challenged, there was a sense that the end was near. Since Lequay’s resignation, there has been constant change in the hierarchy. So those who seek our future must continue to fight.
Recently, former T&T player Brent Sancho said there was a strong possibility that the TTFF was unable to meet their financial obligations to the Soca Warriors players of 2006. This would mean the organisation could become insolvent and therefore disbanded. This would allow for a changing of the guard and the chance for new ideas. This realisation will either ensure the TTFF find the monies they have been ordered to pay by the court or face the embarrassing situation of being declared insolvent.
There is also a belief that given the current lack of love between the TTFF and FIFA, that this will ensure that it will not take much to convince FIFA of the need to agree to any change in the administration of T&T’s football. However, in attempting to improve the current state of football, we must realistically be prepared for some hard and harsh decisions. Reality must be used as the weapon to erase the disturbing trend to settle for sameness. And with that in mind, we need innovative change in attending to the structure of our football.
Many believe that T&T’s elimination is a blessing in disguise. Let me disagree with that, because whether we were good enough or not to oppose Mexico, Costa Rica and El Salvador is not the question. The solution that would have been needed to compete would have meant some sort of change in various departments and also thinking.
Without testing ourselves against the best, we cannot hope to improve. Now that we are forced to return to the drawing board, we need to ensure that the changes we make are real and not just theoretical. For that to happen, those persons who have assisted the TTFF in the past in technical football matters need to be ignored and replacements found quickly.
T&T’s players were outplayed by Guyana under the brilliant leadership of Jamaal Shabazz and never seemed interested in the fight that night. The fact is that T&T was second best, second to the ball and short of intelligent play on the night. We needed someone to step up but unfortunately nobody was willing to put their hands up and demonstrate the necessary leadership skills.
It was almost as if our players were going through the motions. It was significant that after the match, only two T&T players remained crestfallen on the Providence Stadium grounds while the others hurriedly left the field to drown their sorrows elsewhere. Of course, this does not mean that the players did not feel disappointed but our past ejection from the journey has certainly been far more emotional than was displayed in Guyana.
When you learn that the Guyanese players receive a per diem of $15 to $20 US a day against $75 US a day paid to the Soca Warriors, one can easily deduce that much more than money was involved in the heart and soul of the Guyanese performance. It was also evident that the Guyanese public believed in their team and put their money where their support was, filling the stadium 12,000 strong on the night with both noise and atmosphere, something which is rare in this country at the Hasely Crawford Stadium.
It is sad that we do not yet appreciate the power of a supportive crowd. We have never been noisy. Instead we are prepared to watch without emotion seemingly forgetting what we are there for. It is this abject relaxed posture, that is also symptomatic of many of our sportsmen and women and which in many ways explains why a number of the region’s persons are gradually outperforming this country.
Overall though, the players need to take responsibility, and not be allowed to escape. We can watch our matches this season and individually name the players who have not only disappointed themselves but also this country. These players need to hang their collective heads in shame, but most of us know these guys will not do that but continue as if everything is normal, despite the fact that according to All Sports Promotions the entire T&T contingent involved with this failed campaign have been paid on time. German born coach Otto Pfister has no future with our football.
He is basically a competition coach, and in this regard he has failed, but for him to make excuses about lack of warm-up matches is absurd, as he joined the team earlier this year with the knowledge that T&T had been inactive for over eight months. There is no easy way forward. In fact the path to salvation is long, winding and full of many twists and turns. There is also no knight on a white horse or no glorious saviour for football in this country. Our future is in our own hands and the sooner we realise this, the better we will all be.
Let us hope that even though good sense may not prevail, with emphasis on possible retirement of certain officials from the TTFF, that true lovers of this country will place themselves in the firing line and push themselves forward to achieve ultimately what is best for this country.
One has to have sympathy for the many youngsters now coming into football, who did not watch their country in a World Cup in 2006 and will now have to wait till World Cup 2018 to witness their team on the road to Russia.
This length of time waiting could lose this country some quality players who may choose alternative sports instead rather than face the musical chairs administration of the TTFF. We can no longer be patient. Time is running out, change is needed now before it gets worse.